Remarks by the UN Botswana Resident Coordinator,Anders Pedersen at the launch of the 2014 Global Human Development Report

Jul 29, 2014

On behalf of the UN/UNDP family in Botswana, I would like to welcome you all to the launch of the 2014 Global HDR on Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities & Building Resilience.UNDP's vision is to help countries achieve the simultaneous eradication of poverty and significant reduction of inequalities and exclusion and to promote human and sustainable development.

Let me start by stating the obvious and our point of departure: Botswana has been doing very well at bringing people out of poverty. It is one of the countries on the continent enjoying higher economic growth and well-being. Botswana is today ranked 109 on the Human Development Index, the HDI; in other words a medium human development country. It slipped one step since last year but nevertheless is second in Africa only to Mauritius. Botswana should rightly be proud of this achievement.

It is now a question of securing that the country is not slipping back, i.e. looking at the country’s resilience. We cannot take achievements for granted. The eradication of poverty is not about only getting to zero, it is also about staying there! In my view there is no reason why Botswana should not aim at becoming top 100, that is a high human development country, and stay there.

Economic setbacks threaten to undermine social gains even in advanced industrialized societies. In addition to bringing many benefits, globalization has also conveyed new vulnerabilities. Shocks in one part of the world are spreading rapidly, impacting people’s lives everywhere. 

High achievements on critical aspects of development such as health and nutrition, can quickly be undermined by external factors, like the history of HIV/Aids tells us. In the future, climate change manifested in scarcity of water or energy may impact on human development in Botswana in an equally negative way.

The report highlights the need for both promoting people’s choices and protecting human development achievements. It stresses the importance of identifying and addressing persistent vulnerabilities by building resilience and enhancing people’s capability to cope with shocks—financial, natural or otherwise. 

Although almost everyone is likely to feel vulnerable at some point in life, some individuals and groups are systematically worse off. Almost 1.5 billion people are multi-dimensionally poor, with overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards. The Report is looking in particular at inequalities within and between countries, looking beyond averages, of particular relevance to Botswana given the relative high degree of inequality.

For example, close to 800 million people are vulnerable to falling back into poverty when setbacks occur. The Report analyses structural causes; social marginalization, position in society and insufficient public services—and pays attention to the different vulnerabilities faced at different stages of the life cycle.

We all know that hazards and shocks will inevitably occur, but the point is that measures can be taken to contain how far these events reduce human development. The Report argues that most shocks and setbacks can be overcome with the right policies and a stronger commitment to social cohesion

Early detection mechanisms and modest investments at the right time can often considerably reduce vulnerability and build resilience. A human development approach is therefore incomplete unless it incorporates vulnerability and resilience into the analysis. A good example from Botswana is the early introduction of social protection measures, social safety nets. The report shows how critically important this is and that history tells us that those countries that early on introduced such programmes are doing relatively good or even better.

In conclusion, identifying and targeting vulnerable groups, reducing inequality and addressing structural vulnerabilities are essential to yield robust and sustainable human progress across generations. This is of particular importance to Botswana that despite high sustained growth faces challenges related to lack of jobs and inequalities. We must be mindful of the fact that the sub-region in which we are is the most unequal in the world, according to the Report.

Botswana has been doing very well at bringing people out of poverty, now a question of securing that they are not slipping back, i.e. resilience. We cannot take achievements for granted! The role of UNDP and the UN in Botswana is nothing less than to support Botswana to achieve this.Thank you! 

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